World, Americas

US senator calls for probe of Bezos phone hack

Chris Murphy requests briefing to Congress on any current investigation, preliminary and final conclusions

Servet Gunerigok   | 30.01.2020
US senator calls for probe of Bezos phone hack

WASHINGTON

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy called on the country’s intelligence community Wednesday to probe allegations that a "high-level Saudi government official" hacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone.

In a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and FBI, Murphy urged the agencies to "investigate the allegations that a high-level Saudi government official illegally compromised and stole personal data" from Bezos' phone and "possibly other U.S. citizens as part of a campaign to intimidate his opponents."

The senator also requested a briefing to Congress on any current investigation, preliminary and final conclusions.

Last week, Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asserted that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was "the most likely source" of the hacking.

Multiple news outlets reported that bin Salman was behind the hacking of Bezos' phone in May 2018 when he sent a video via WhatsApp loaded with spyware in a bid to extract files from the Amazon CEO’s phone.

Bezos also owns U.S. daily The Washington Post, where journalist Jamal Khashoggi used to write columns criticizing bin Salman's repressive policies before being assassinated by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

"The operation against Mr. Bezos raises serious concern that other American citizens may have been deliberately targeted" by Riyadh, said Murphy, adding cybercrimes committed by Saudi government officials could have serious ramifications for relations between Washington and Riyadh.

He said Khashoggi’s murder "has shaken the underpinnings of our relationship."

Murphy asked the intelligence community to probe what software was used and who received the information from Bezos' phone as well as the developer of the software and if any U.S. officials or citizens are involved.

Hours after the scandal broke, Saudi Arabia's embassy in the U.S. called the allegations "absurd".

Saudi officials turned to the same pattern after Khashoggi's killing: an immediate denial followed by calls for an investigation.

Riyadh acknowledges its agents killed Khashoggi but blames it on a botched rendition operation that was executed without bin Salman's consent, an explanation scoffed at by critics who doubt the killing could have been conducted without the consent of bin Salman, the Kingdom's de facto ruler.

The CIA determined with confidence that bin Salman directed Khashoggi's murder.

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